Majority of fourth graders now back in classrooms
For the first time since the pandemic began, the majority of 4th graders nationwide have finally made it back to classes in person full time, according to the latest federal data. The National Center for Education Statistics says that by April, nearly all K-8 schools offered at least some in-person instruction, with 56% providing full-time instruction on campus. “Today’s data reaffirms what we’ve been seeing and hearing for months—that we’ve met and exceeded President Biden’s goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools, and that as a nation we continue to make significant progress in reopening as many schools as possible before the summer,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement on the data. A separate report from Burbio, covering 1,200 districts, including the 200 largest, found that in general, conservative-leaning states reopened schools faster than liberal-leaning ones. There was strong variation among the latter, however; those in the Northeast and the Midwest reopened a lot faster than the West Coast, which has the highest concentration of remote learners. White students were the least likely of any racial or ethnic group to be learning virtually; Asian American students were the most likely.
US Department of Education
New York Times
Biden spending plan aims to narrow financial disparities between schools
The Biden administration's latest budget proposal includes a $20bn program for high-poverty school districts. States would get additional funding if they “address longstanding funding disparities” between rich and poor districts. Zahava Stadler, a former policy director at EdBuild who currently focuses on education funding at the civil rights organization The Education Trust, said the new funding in the Biden plan “wouldn’t just add money where it’s needed; it would also offer an important push for states to change the policies that create inequity in state and local funding.” The administration has not specifically said how the new funding formula, billed as part of the long-established federal Title I program that is meant to support high-poverty schools, would work. Michael Dannenberg, vice president of the nonprofit advocacy group Education Reform Now, suggests that "They should either pump all the new money through the current Education Finance Incentive Grant formula." Failing that, he says, officials should devise "an entirely new formula that is more targeted to the highest-poverty school districts and includes even stronger incentives to create equitable state funding systems."
New York Times
HISD teachers in line for bigger-than-expected pay rise
Houston ISD teachers will receive an average pay rise of around $3,500 next year, after the district's board yesterday voted unanimously to add them to the 2021-22 budget. Under the approved plan, HISD teachers, counselors, nurses and other employees on the same salary schedule will get a $2,500 raise and an extra pay hike tied to their experience level, known as a “step” raise. The step increases range from $50 to $2,365, with an average of nearly $1,000. In all, most teachers will see a pay bump of roughly 5%. Board members also voted Thursday to mandate that incoming Superintendent Millard House II, who is expected to take the reins early next month, propose a potentially larger teacher pay raise in August once the district’s financial picture becomes clearer. HISD is awaiting official word from state officials on two decisions that could net the district about $40 million, roughly the same amount as the raises approved Thursday.
Dallas ISD set to ban most school suspensions
Handing out student suspensions will no longer be a go-to option for Dallas educators if trustees approve a proposal aimed at cutting down on practices that have disproportionately impacted Black students. Trustees were briefed on a new student code of conduct Thursday that would remove suspensions - both in-school and out-of-school — as a potential repercussion for most offenses. Only severe misconduct - such as possessing drugs or making a terroristic threat — might still require a student to be expelled or removed from campus. An alternative strategy would see students potentially sent to "Reset Centers", classrooms in more than 50 comprehensive middle and high schools meant to separate students from their normal environment while not disrupting their academic progress. They differ from in-school suspension in that students would have to complete classwork remotely while working to address behavioral issues. Trustees are expected to approve the discipline overhaul at a June 24 meeting. The changes would be implemented next school year.
Dallas Morning News
Denton schools submit waiver for virtual education funding
Denton ISD school board members have unanimously approved a waiver arguing that Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath has the authority to approve funding for virtual education. Most school districts, Denton ISD included, are not eligible to receive funding for student attendance, which is a major factor in state funding to public schools, if students aren’t physically present for class in most instances under current statute interpretations. The district’s appeal, in part, argues that Morath already has the authority to approve funding for a virtual academy for third- through eighth-graders even without direct legislative approval. Superintendent Jamie Wilson said the request is an attempt to better serve the minority of students who do better in virtual environments or whose families don’t feel safe sending them back to physical classrooms.
Hays community breaks ground on elementary school
Hays CISD broke ground on a $38.49m elementary school in Buda's Sunfield development on Wednesday, at an event attended by district leaders and community stakeholders. Once complete, it will have the capacity to serve as many as 900 students and will have a footprint of 117,611 sq ft. "The building that will be built on this site is our next generation prototype, which checks off all the boxes necessary to provide for an exceptional well-rounded education for our students all the while paying close attention to economy of scale and affordability," said Superintendent Eric Wright. "The finished product will be a source of pride for our students, this neighborhood and community, as well as to Hays CISD as a whole."
U.S. state legislators move to restrict teaching about racism and bias
Over the last several months, officials nationwide have raced to enact new laws and introduce new policies meant to shape how students discuss race and bias in both the past and the present. Some have focused on restricting the use of critical race theory, a framework that examines how policies and the law perpetuate systemic racism. In other states, lawmakers have tried to restrict specific kinds of antiracism training or the teaching of “divisive” concepts. Chalkbeat has drawn up a map showing which states have introduced efforts to restrict education on racism, bias, the contributions of specific racial or ethnic groups to U.S. history, or related topics; ranging from Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign a bill banning elements of critical race theory in the classroom, and potentially prohibiting classroom simulations and community service projects, to Michigan, where a bill introduced by senior lawmakers in the stat Senate last month would cut funding to districts that teach critical race theory, the “1619 Project,” or a list of “anti-American and racist theories.”
How unions in America's largest districts are handling school reopenings
The 74 looks at how teacher unions in the United States' four largest school districts have handled school reopenings. Unions in New York and Miami-Dade County reached agreement on reopening last fall, while Chicago’s union didn’t come to terms until March. The Los Angeles union didn’t come to terms until April, and most LA schools won’t reopen until this fall. Some asked for additional staff to address mental health issues and learning loss, while others went further afield, wanting an end to standardized tests. Some demands, however, are universal. Each union wants smaller class sizes, which means more teachers, and more support employees to occupy various new programs.
Record number of students set to attend summer school this year
Millions of children this summer will participate in what's expected to be the largest summer-school program in history, powered by more than $1.2bn in targeted federal post-pandemic assistance from the American Rescue Plan. This year's programs face the task of teaching not just about math, history and English, but also addressing widespread mental health challenges among students, and in some cases, dealing with nutrition issues for children who missed out on weeks or months of school meals. Such demands have seen warn these enrichment programs aren't an instant panacea; among the concerns is that students who previously had trouble focusing on classroom work will have lost some of their coping skills. But experts also said this is a rare opportunity to focus on mental health and the underlying causes of disproportionate discipline, by training teachers to even more closely focus on the whole child. Help support quality local journalism like this. "All of us, even adults, have fallen out of practice in being in the world with each other," said Matthew Soldner, chief evaluation officer for the federal Department of Education. "I think this would be wrong to think of this as a one-and-done sort of thing." Echoing his comments Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said: "We need summer school to be really something different than it has been before. It can't just be about remediation. It has to be about helping kids get their mojo back. We have to think about the entire next year for academic recovery, and we have to think about summer school as a shot in the arm."